Govt free to seek fund for Padma Bridge from any source : Goldstein

FE Report

World Bank country director in Bangladesh Ellen Goldstein speaks at the programme on 'Bangladesh Country Performance and Result Review - World Bank Country Assistance Strategy--2011-2014' in the city Saturday. — FE photo
World Bank country director in Bangladesh Ellen Goldstein speaks at the programme on ‘Bangladesh Country Performance and Result Review – World Bank Country Assistance Strategy–2011-2014’ in the city Saturday. — FE photo

World Bank country director Ms Ellen Goldstein Saturday said the government is free to seek any external assistance for building the Padma Bridge as it has the independence to make its own policy and strategy.

“What I will say, the government is always free to seek money for Padme Bridge project or any of its projects,” Ms Goldstein told journalists when she was asked to reply to the finance minister’s recent remarks.

Finance minister AMA Muhith recently said if funding from the World Bank is not confirmed within this month (January), the government will explore alternative sources of resources for building the multi-billion dollar Padma Bridge.

Ms Goldstein, however, refused to confirm any specific time for the WB’s final decision on its funding for the US$2.9 billion Padma Bridge project.

“Actually I have no control over the external panel. They will examine and give a report. After that, the co-financers will give their next thought,” Ms Goldstein, the outgoing WB country director, told the press after the mid-term review of the Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) at a function in Dhaka Saturday.

She said: “I am sure, the government would like to know the result today or tomorrow. I appreciate the urgency. But this is a question of the investigation and the pace of response the external panel gives.”

“We are now in a situation where the external expert panel is reviewing the investigation carried out by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh,” Ms Goldstein said adding: “I will request all of you to wait until the end of January.”

The WB chief in Dhaka said, “I know my name will probably always be associated with the Padma Bridge project and the WB’s stance for a fair investigation into corruption evidence in the project.

“I know that because Bangladeshis stopped me on the streets and in the shops and thanked me for upholding transparency against corruption.

“And they (people) know that integrity among politicians and public servants is really gone. The Bangladeshi society is sceptical about it. We know, there can not be an overnight change; this is a long-term change,” Ms Goldstein said.

But people are tired of witnessing the misuse of public resources and the lack of efforts for accelerating economic growth of the country and prosperity of its citizens, she said.

She said the WB wants a comprehensive investigation into corruption in the Padma bridge project.

The Bank’s effort to ensure accountability is not only for Padma Bridge but also for other projects financed by it, she added.

She further said people’s voice should be raised against corruption to ensure optimum use of public money.

Presided over by Economic Relations Division (ERD) secretary Abul Kalam Azad, additional secretary of the ERD Arastoo Khan and the operation officer of the World Bank presented an overview of the CAS results separately at the function.

The Washington-based global lender provides its support to Bangladesh under the CAS for 2011 to 2014 for upgrading the country’s infrastructure and cutting poverty. It has 33 projects in Bangladesh and made commitment of $4.3 billion in financial assistance.

The WB in its overview said using rigorous monitoring of progress toward results, the Bank and the government found progress from the baseline for 76 percent of programme indicators, with another 14 percent showing no change and 7.0 percent showing deterioration.

This is an improvement over the previous year, with a notable upswing in data availability for indicators from only 56 percent to an impressive 97 percent, the World Bank said.

The CAS review said infrastructure sector was the bad performer in last two years while education and water and sanitation performed excellently.

Outgoing WB country director Ms. Ellen Goldstein will complete her tenure in Bangladesh this month and move on to her new assignment on February 01, 2013,

Salman Zaheer, South Asia Regional Cooperation Director, WB, will act as the Bank’s Bangladesh country director.

Zaheer, an Indian citizen, will become the acting country director of the WB operations in Bangladesh and Nepal until a new country director joins later this year.

UNB quoted Ms Golstein as saying, “Bangladesh is a remarkable country with high potential. During my tenure, we’ve focused heavily on strengthening country systems in areas such as public procurement and local government development.

“I’m proud that together with government we are mainstreaming transparency and social accountability into all our operations. “This is ultimately the key to sustainable development and responsive government for the wonderful people of Bangladesh,” Goldstein said.

Source: The Financial Express

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